on October 21, 2005
R. A. Nelson's debut novel has certainly caused quite a stir since its publication in September. With its salaciously taboo subject matter (a doomed love affair between teacher and student) and an unrelenting pace that keeps readers gripped until the very last word, TEACH ME approaches the line of what defines groundbreaking, controversial YA fiction --- and barrels right through it. With plenty of passion, intensity and reckless behavior throughout, this tornado of a book illuminates a number of haunting life questions and shocking answers that will gnaw away at readers' consciences long after the final page has been turned.
Seventeen-year-old Carolina "Nine" Livingston is what most adults would call "a good kid." She excels in school, doesn't drink or do drugs, and gets along with her parents. She has one friend (Schuyler Green, a boy) whom she's known since grade school, and spends much of her time thinking about the universe and reading poetry. For most of her life, she has lived a fairly normal existence until the day she locks eyes with Mr. Mann, her English teacher --- the split second when everything changes forever.
From that moment on, Nine and Mr. Mann are inseparable. From the classroom to the bedroom, the two exchange more than their fair share of witty banter and clandestine touches (including Nine's virginity, when she is safely eighteen), until Mr. Mann's decision to end the affair with an abrupt "Everything has to stop." Naturally, Nine is heartbroken --- especially when she finds out that he is getting married to a girl she's never heard of before.
It is at this point that the novel gets interesting, albeit twisted. Aside from the shocking ending that verges on the unbelievable, TEACH ME's premise is not that far-fetched and poses a number of questions that are relevant to teens today. It presents an honest and somewhat grotesque picture of what is possible between a grown man and a young girl (however implausible to some more conservative readers), and illuminates what could happen when that connection gets out of hand.
Nelson's first novel is a mouthful to digest, and one that certainly should be taken seriously both as a crossover work of fiction and as a commentary on what's possible in the world today.
--- Reviewed by Alexis Burling
on December 28, 2005
This is a YA novel that uses language beautifully, but has some issues in terms of plot. The writing is poetic and often hits the nail right on the head in terms of capturing emotions or moments. The relationship between Nine and her teacher is discussed in a very real, honest way, and I liked that Nine's emotions were the main focus of that aspect of the story. It's not afraid to be sexy, but the book is also much more interesting for placing the focus on Nine's bliss and destruction rather than on the nature of her relationship with her teacher (meaning it's not so much an Issue Book as it is a story about this girl's experience). There's some problems with that focus, too. The story is occasionally too melodramatic, and some of the plot points (especially those related to Nine's reactions to events in the story) are really unbelievable or portrayed as less bizarre than they are. That made empathizing with Nine difficult at times, and removed me from the story entirely at others.
Despite its flaws, I enjoyed this book and read it very quickly. I think it's worth reading, as long as you're willing to suspend disbelief now and then at times when you normally shouldn't have to.
on February 18, 2008
To start off, this is one of those books that is so emotionally gripping, you don't stop thinking about it until long after you finally put it down. It's like a melting pot of all the emotions people don't like to feel: anger, pain, sadness...and rarely happiness.
Of course, although this is a beautifully written, somewhat haunting book, I was a bit hesitant to read it at first, because of the taboo relationship between teacher and student. However, I put aside any reluctance I had and picked up a copy. And I was so pleased that I had.
It's an intriguing, inspiring work thats's so well-written, it makes it feel like the story is happening to YOU. What surprised me the most was that after I researched more about the author, it turns out...R.A. Nelson is a MAN. Now, I don't know if not knowing was just me being ignorant, but I was stunned that he could write the emotions of a pubescent girl so well while never experiencing them first-hand!
This book was also filled with witticisms. Sometimes, they were a bit hard to understand, but others mentioned hit me right atop the head and made me laugh in appreciation. I had never read such an interestingly-written book before. Perhaps the most absorbing arc was what happened to the main character, Nine, after the relationship unraveled.
After all, as playwright William Congreve once said, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
on October 8, 2005
This book is truely amazing. The love they share is utterly breath taking. I reccommend it very much! In the beginning it's a little slow. The middle and ending parts kept me guessing each word I read. It's such a powerful book.
on June 26, 2016
So far, the best, most thrilling book I've ever read. I never like girl protagonists because they're either too bitchy or self-hating and cookie-cutter, but this girl is phenomenal. Smart, mature, insane, funny. Her descent into chaos is steady. Her obsession relatable. At least at first and in terms of what a crossed girl wants to do but just dreams about doing. The metaphors/science-y theme is tight. There's never a dull moment. So much poetry and macabre beauty.
on April 27, 2010
I've read so many novels about student/teacher relationships, so I was a little skeptical about this one, but I just after the first chapter, I knew it was going to be different.
The entire story is told through Carolina`s, or Nine as she's nicknamed, point of view. She's probably one of the most unique and different characters I've ever read. Her thoughts aren't ever really focused on one thing. She's what you call a scatter-brain, but it works very well. Her story is full of completely off-topic ramblings, but it only makes her character much more entertaining to read.
It was one of those stories where I got so wrapped up that I'd actually start to feel. For example, when Mr. Mann, Nine's dreamy new poetry teacher, breaks up with her out of the blue, my chest literally throbbed for Nine. Another reason Nine was so different to read about- she didn't sit down and take it. After awhile, Nine's love and heartbreak for Mr. Mann turned into a full obsession. He hadn't given her an excuse for breaking her heart, and she won't stop until she gets one.
This isn't the story of a student/teacher relationship and how it came to be. This is a story about the aftermath of such. Though I felt some negativity towards both of the main characters, Nine and Mr. Mann, the book left me in a content with them, and their relationship.
It's not recent, but I definitely recommend it. I can guarantee you that it's the most diverse student/teacher story you'll ever read about, and it'll probably become your favorite as well!
on April 12, 2007
This is one of my favorite books, because it lifted me out of the rut of the ordinary teen novel. This was a book I found in a bin for 4 bucks. I was bored and I thought that it would be just another book to take my time to read. The truth is it pulls you into the story. All of the characters are interesting very few were cliche and all of them were rounded.
Some may find the plot "inappropriate" but if you are a mature enough reader, it should be OK, it doesn't urge the reader to jump on the first teacher they see. In fact the story is so smooth and linguistic it makes you forge the age difference of Nine and her teacher.
The only down point is that at a certain point of the novel, Nine's character changes and he plot gets a bit unbelievable at the the end, but Nelson handles it well enough and the reader isn't taken out of the fictional dream. It urges you to read on.
I felt the end was kind of so so compared to the rest. But I don't feel the end is worth forgetting the book,
Overall great book.
on January 24, 2016
I have finished reading this book in two days. Would have finished sooner if my mother did not keep me so occupied. I have to say, I have not read another teacher/student relationship novel such as this one. This novel was a roller coaster of emotions, and once I reached the ending, I had no idea what to feel. Personally, I felt that the love between Nine and her teacher was not very adventurous or romantic-- despite the fact that they did have sex. Regrettably, it started getting interesting once her teacher said, "Everything has to stop." They rushed into a relationship, but it ended as fast as it started. I liked how the author kept referring back to Emily Dickinson- the famous poet (who is the teacher's favorite poet in the novel). The novel has some pretty advanced vocabulary packed in it, including some science terms. You guys may as well get on the Google highway for some of the terms. However, I found myself a little lost at times, and got myself off track with the novel due to its complexity. I completely sympathized Nine in the novel; I fell in love with a teacher as well, and kind of virtually stalk him up to this day, so I know how it is. But nowhere near bizarre to Nine's extent. At times, the novel made me angry (to the point where I actually wanted to throw it). It also made me get on the verge of tears, it made me laugh, it made me everything. It truly did feel as if I was Nine, but could not help but imagine my teacher as Mr. Mann. One thing I appreciated about the novel is its realistic plot. The ending was definitely realistic, but I felt as it if could have ended in a more creative... slow way. I miss the characters already!
on March 26, 2010
Wow! What an intense story. Certainly one of the most memorable YA novels I've read lately. And kudos to R.A. Nelson for channeling a high-school girl so well. Have I not checked out the author's website, I would have never guessed the book was written by a man.
"Teach Me" is a story of a love affair between a high school senior Carolina (Nine) and her poetry teacher Mr. Mann. Carolina is an excellent students who plans to study astronomy in college. She adds poetry to her science-heavy schedule to broaden her horizons. The moment Nine sees her new poetry teacher - Mr. Mann - she is completely taken by his wit and good looks. Her crush is encouraged by the teacher and soon their relationship becomes romantic and sexual once Carolina turns 18. The taboo affair develops steadily, the couple start talking about their plans for future and then suddenly Mr. Mann breaks up with Nine with no explanation and within days marries another woman. Carolina totally looses her head, she is in rage and thirsts not only for an explanation, but for revenge...
This is an extremely emotional story. It is excruciatingly painful to follow Carolina through her crush and obsession, her happiness and heartbreak, her rage and despair. Nelson is masterful in portraying feelings of a teenage girl consumed by her first love.
The weakest (or maybe the strongest) aspect of the book is its moral ambiguity. I started reading the book fully prepared to hate the teacher, to view him as predator and abuser. But it doesn't quite work out this way. The character of Mr. Mann is gray, he is portrayed as neither villain nor a good guy. This student/teacher relationship is complex and not easily categorized. I found myself confused and unsure what is right or wrong and slightly ashamed of being so ready to label an affair between Nine and Mr. Mann criminal, when I am totally fine with similar relationships portrayed in a more romantic way by various YA paranormal romances.
The relationship between Nine and Richard (Mr. Mann) is complicated. I am still thinking about it. I am confused, I am uncomfortable after reading "Teach Me," and this is a sign of a good book for me. However I suspect many readers will find the moral ambiguity of this story off-putting.
on January 17, 2010
Teach Me was a novel that had a lot of potential but didn't live up to the hype of it all..I was expecting something much different and maybe that's why I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped, who knows. I expected a true and deep love story between a teacher and student, a forbidden act. However, it was a story of a girl, Carolina, who sleeps with her teacher, Mr. Mann, in the novel her pours his heart out to her of his love and affection, leading her on to think this is a happily ever after love affair, and then drops her for another woman, marries this other woman, and the girl is left without any answers, nor does he seem to feel any remorse for what he has done except in a few dull and try hard one page sentences. There is no depth and the entire novel is about her revenge on him and her puppy dog love for the man. Carolina, who was the main character, was dull and lacked much of anything worthwhile. The author tried to make her seem mature, however, she failed miserably. Instead of Carolina coming off as a "young woman", she came off as incredibly immature, she read as a girl that could not handle a relationship with a boy her own age, let alone a man, a man who happened to be her English teacher. Yes, Carolina was a smart girl for her age and knew quite a bit about poetry, and I believed the author thought this gave Carolina a sense of maturity, when all it showed was a young girl who knew her literature. I wouldn't suggest this novel to anyone over the age of sixteen because you will be merely disappointed, unless your taste in novels is one of a fourteen year olds. If you want a good, deep and sexually charged novel on this topic, read Taming the Beast by Emily Maguire, this is a wonderfully written novel that is constantly keeping you on your toes, you aren't left disappointed like you are with Teach me